“And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments,” Nehemiah 1:5
Deep in grief for the condition of Jerusalem and the people of God, Nehemiah has been fasting and praying before the Lord for days, many days. When we get to chapter two we’ll get to see how many days he’s fasted and prayed.
I imagine that the prayer recorded in Nehemiah 1:5-11 is actually Nehemiah’s recollection of what his prayers were like during those days and that they weren’t actually recorded during his fast. I also think that the pattern of the prayer also matches the pattern in which Nehemiah usually prayed. I’ve observed that people are very habitual in how they do things and that this characteristic is also true of how we pray. The words might not be the same every time but there is a pattern that we generally follow when we pray.
As Nehemiah begins his prayer he briefly takes the time to praise God. “…Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God…”
I think it’s good for us to begin our prayers with praise. Praise does two things, it tells God what we think of him and it reminds us of who he is that we’re praying to.
Some might say that God doesn’t need us to tell him what we think of him. He can read our hearts. He already knows how we feel about him. And while I believe both these statements are true, I also believe that, just like parents that know that their children love them still love to hear their children actually say how they feel, it touches God’s heart and gives him pleasure to hear us praise him.
Nehemiah follows his brief offering of praise with these words, “You who keep Your covenant and mercy…”
We don’t often stop and consider that in the middle of all our disobedience to God and our betrayals of our relationship with him, he’s always been faithful to us and kept his part of the relationship with us. What’s more, when it came to administering the consequences that our disobedience deserved God has always been very merciful to us. He has always sought to shield us as much as he could from the full weight of the consequences of our actions. Lamentations 3:22 puts it this way, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed.”
It’s good for us to remember that our holy God who is worthy of service and praise better than we could ever give is also a merciful God; patiently accepting our meager obedience and feeble worship, thankful that in our sinfulness we would be able to come to him at all.
God keeps his covenant. He’s promised to save us from our sins and from ourselves and he’ll be faithful. Praise God that He’s faithful because without out his faithfulness we’d never be able to take one step toward becoming sons and daughters of God.